No city in Oregon allows truckers to use jake brakes in an urban setting, but motorcycles are allowed to roar through Portland making more noise than a caravan of big rigs jake-brakin' down Deadman Pass. What's the point? Is this even legal? —Say Again?
As I noted in a previous column (Dr. Know, WW, Aug. 24, 2016), motorcycles can be pretty loud without exceeding the legal limit—though certainly, some are modified to be louder. Part of the point is that an unmuffled exhaust improves performance, but the accepted response to your complaint is for the biker in question to jerk his thumb toward the "Loud Pipes Save Lives" patch on his club vest.
The theory is that since car drivers are notoriously bad at seeing motorcycles on the highway, a loud aftermarket exhaust system makes sure bikes still get noticed.
There are a few holes in this argument. The first is that the vast majority of exhaust noise is projected behind the rider—you don't hear him until he's passed you, which is precisely the point at which you've ceased to be a danger to him.
It's also worth noting that a 2009 study found that wearing brightly colored or fluorescent clothing reduced riders' crash risk by 37 percent— yet we haven't seen many riders trading their sick RevZilla* headers for what admittedly sound a lot like Power Rangers outfits.
Perhaps the most damning critique of loud pipes is that they're lousy PR for the motorcycling community as a whole. I edited Say Again's letter for length, but the full text included the phrases "twitchy-wristed fools" and "penis-challenged idiots." This is not the branding you want for enthusiasts of your hobby.
Some communities have sought an outright ban on motorcycles in certain areas where peace and quiet are at a premium.
This has led the American Motorcycle Association to embrace the slogan "Loud pipes risk rights," which is to the original what a baggie of celery sticks is to a Snickers bar. Still, the message is clear: Pipe down before you make everyone hate us.
* A real brand! Because, you know, safety first!